This Saturday, I’ll celebrate three weeks of marriage. I’m still in that slaphappy state where I get a stupid grin on my face every time I hear the word “wedding.” (I can only assume that’ll last forever.)
Our wedding consisted of a lovely outdoor ceremony in western Michigan with our friends and family. One of the major parts of planning our wedding was, of course, the reception. Lots of preparation goes into a reception, most prominently decisions about food and drink. (I think we did pretty well and everyone seemed to have fun—although no one would probably say otherwise to my face, would they?)
Providing that much food and drink to a large group of people is a challenge. It’s expensive and tricky. Just how much wine do you need per 10 people? What if they like it a lot? What if they don’t touch it? In the end, getting the right amount of anything requires plenty of guesswork.
Going through a planning process like this makes you think a lot about other weddings you’ve attended or heard about, and since a large part of my life is centered around the Bible, my mind immediately jumps to the weddings in the Bible—specifically the wedding at Cana as described in John 2. Here’s the complete account:
On Tuesday there was a wedding at Kanah [Cana] in the Galil; and the mother of Yeshua was there. Yeshua too was invited to the wedding, along with his talmidim [disciples]. The wine ran out, and Yeshua’s mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” Yeshua replied, “Mother, why should that concern me? — or you? My time hasn’t come yet.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now six stone water-jars were standing there for the Jewish ceremonial washings, each with a capacity of twenty or thirty gallons. Yeshua told them, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim. He said, “Now draw some out, and take it to the man in charge of the banquet”; and they took it. The man in charge tasted the water; it had now turned into wine! He did not know where it had come from, but the servants who had drawn the water knew. So he called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone else serves the good wine first and the poorer wine after people have drunk freely. But you have kept the good wine until now!” This, the first of Yeshua’s miraculous signs, he did at Kanah in the Galil; he manifested his glory, and his talmidim came to trust in him. — John 2:1-11 (CJB)
This was a wedding teetering on the brink of disaster. Having wine available wasn’t just a nice thing, but a necessity in order to be considered hospitable. For us, running out would have been annoying at worst. Maybe it’d make the party less memorable, maybe people would have left early—but ultimately not a big deal for us.
But if it had been a big deal to me, as it was to the man in charge at the Cana wedding, I would have been at an utter loss as to what to do. We were in a semi-remote part of Michigan. The nearest store of any capacity was miles away. The quickest we could have gotten the party started again would have been nearly an hour. That’s an eternity when you have lots of guests waiting for something to happen.
So I can’t help but put myself in the position of the bride and groom in this story. But against all odds, a guest at the wedding took care of the situation… somehow. Not only did Jesus solve the immediate problem, but he produced wine so spectacular that the master of the banquet gushed about its quality. The Asbury Bible Commentary states that Jesus made “somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons” of wine—a staggering amount.
This miracle means a lot in the context of Jesus’ ministry. It’s the first public miracle that we’re told about, and we’re also told it’s where he “manifested his glory.” After this, his disciples believed in him. It was a massive shift in his life and ministry.
What I find compelling about this miracle is that Jesus wasn’t fulfilling a “need” in the “someone-will-die-without-this” sense. Rather, this was something that people wanted. They’d already had wine and more was desired. I like how the IVP New Testament Commentary on John puts it: “here is a free, full, extravagant outpouring, and it is precisely the Son of God’s gratuitous, gracious generosity that is the glory revealed in this sign.”
Jesus helps a young couple throw a party that’s talked about for millenia and uses it as the launching pad for his public ministry. That’s a pretty cool party.